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Marella Explorer – Land of the Midnight Sun Cruise – June 2019

Day 1 – Embarkation

In my opinion, Newcastle port is not very well organised. The embarkation process was very disjointed and puts a bit of a dampener on the start of your holiday. We (I was travelling with three other ladies on this cruise and cabin sharing with one of them to cut the cost down), arrived at the terminal at around 11.30 having walked from the North Shields Premier Inn which is located at the entrance to the port (so is a good place to stay as the walk is all downhill). We were then sent to the red building to drop off our cases. Because I hadn’t paid £48 to prebook my cabin, I had no idea of my cabin number, so it was then that I learnt I would be in cabin 4078. We queued for around 45 minutes where they attached a label with our cabin number on and took it off to be put on the ship. The next time we would see them was outside the cabin. We then went back outside to wait for a courtesy bus to take us back to check in at the terminal.

Once back at the terminal, we then had to queue again to collect a document and our cruise cards, then wait for our allocated letter to be called to check in and go through security. Because Gill (my cabin buddy was running late, I asked if I could check in without her and was told by one of the ladies that I couldn’t and would have to wait for Gill to arrive. So I sat down with Lesley and Sue (my other two buddies) and waited for our letter (L) to be called. Gill still hadn’t arrive when our letter was called so they went a head and boarded while I waited. After another hour or more of waiting (and I was getting hungry), I asked another lady if I could leave Gill’s card with them for her to collect and they said ‘yes, just leave the envelope’. Why they couldn’t have done this an hour and a half ago, I don’t know, so I carried on to the next queue!!

I queued to get my photo added to my card then again to go through security, then to get on the bus to go to the ship, then finally (having driven the long way around) we were dropped off at the ship and able to board. All in all, the above process could be improved as it seemed very disjointed and unorganised. I am not sure if this is all down to the port itself or TUI, I’ll let you decide!!

Marella Explorer waiting for us to board

I boarded mid ship, deck 5 near the reception area, so to find my cabin, I just went down one level and easily found it as my cabin was midship. I had an inside cabin and (as stated above) was sharing with Gill to save money as Solo travellers tend to be penalised with a ‘solo supplement’. By cabin sharing, I can travel as a solo, meet up with people for dinner but still also do my own thing.

Cabin number 4078 – inside – Deck 4.

The Cabin has a lot of room and wardrobe/drawer space. Bathroom is quite big too. After unpacking and settling in, I met up with Lesley, Gill and Sue for dinner and was joined by two other solos, Jim and Julie. Over the period of the holiday, I did find that there was a lot of engine/air con noise in this cabin – not sure what, but it was quite loud. I was told (by a member of housekeeping) that floor 4 is the worse for this noise!

As always, first night dinners are never brilliant due to my diet, so had to make do with what could be made for me. I had a lettuce wrapped veggie roll with a peanut sauce to start, followed a a vegetable tart (but with no tart) and a lovely apple pie with sorbet for dessert (this was the best bit of the meal).

After dinner, we made our way to the front of the ship to watch the ‘variety’ show which was just a taster of what was going to be shown throughout the cruise. I went to a few of the shows and as always, some were good, some not so – It’s a personal choice, so I have avoided commented on the shows throughout this blog and mainly kept the blog to the tours and ports of call.

The evening was then spent in one of the many bars onboard called the Indigo. There is also a nightclub and casino there.

Day 2 – Sea Day

After having lunch, I spent most of my day in the ships spa, just chilling and relaxing. They had an offer on of £99 for the whole cruise and it consists of using the spa area (no treatments) which reminded me a bit of walking into the spa at Centerparks in Longleat. Beautiful, spaced out and isn’t that busy at all.

Day 3 – Bergen

Bergen is the Gateway to the Fjords of Norway. As a UNESCO World Heritage City and a European City of Culture, the Bergen region has the ideal combination of nature, culture and exciting urban life all year around.

I had a tour booked which was the Monstraumen Cruise. Deep fjords, steep mountains, mighty waterfalls and powerful currents – all year round!
On the way from Bergen you will have a good view of the famous Bryggen, the old city of Bergen along with the rest of Bergen`s harbour basin.

The cruise continues under Nordhordalandsbrua up the 27-kilometer long Osterfjorden in Hordaland province. Innermost in that deep fjord is Modalen, the second smallest municipality in Norway with about 380 residents. Underway, the fjord narrows between the steep mountains as you head through the strong currents of the shallow and narrow Mostraumen strait. You’ll also see waterfalls that can give your face a really refreshing shower at times of peak water flow! We sail our bow right up to a waterfall before turning back in Modalen and retracing our route through the magnificent landscape.

There was a slight problem with this tour for some people (limited mobility and the disabled) as it turned out there was a 10-15 minute walk to get to the dock where we got the small cruiser. Even at the cruise ship, some people left because of this as they were unable to walk. I (and several others in the group), spoke to the excursion rep, Kelly, and we all found her rather rude and abrupt as she was unable to understand that it hadn’t been specified that there was a 10 minute walk to the cruiser on the description. Had this been said, some people probably wouldn’t have booked. However, on the return trip, it was announced that, for those that needed it, there was a bus waiting at the port. I think Marella could have handled it a bit better, but at least they found a solution for the return trip. As well as our cruise ship, there was three others in port, including Fred Olsen’s Boudicca.

Fred Olsen’s Boudicca

Day 4 – Olden

Olden is a small pleasant village at the end of the Nordfjord. A ten minutes walk from the quay will bring you to the centre of Olden, with shops, outlet stores, cafés, ATM and a post-office.

Olden in absolutely stunning. I had a great trip (again organised by Marella). It was called Majestic Kjenndalen. This time, we had a coach ride from the port (after a short tender ride as P&O’s Britannia was also in port today), to a small cruiser to cruise lake Lovatn.

We cruised to our first stop which was a restaurant on the lakeside called Kjenndalstova where we were given hot drinks and waffles. Surprisingly, they were able to do some gluten free/lactose free vegetarian waffles, so for once I managed to eat!! I was very grateful for this as its so unusual on these trips to get anything but this restaurant was very obliging.

We boarded the coach and then headed to see the glacier. The road was very narrow and in places we were high up with very little protecting us from the edge of the road (which went into the lake we had just cruised on. On reaching the glacier, there was a short walk of about 10-15 minutes to the viewing point. Walking about there was some lovely waterfalls either side of us. The Glacier looked fantastic.

Panoramic image from the glacier viewing area.

On the way back, we stopped at the location where there was a memorial for a land slide that had killed a lot of people. You can read about it from Wiki here. It was a very pretty and well looked after place. For somewhere of such devastation, beauty certainly shone through.

A little further down the road we stopped again and had the opportunity to take some photos at the grass roofed holiday homes. When the grass on the roof gets too long, they bring their goats to cut it.

During the trip, I bumped into Jim and we decided to meet up back at the port to do the cable car. While I was waiting, I saw Lesley and Sue and told them about the cable car so they decided to join us. It was quite expensive (£75). We got on the blue bus that took us to the Sky Bar from right where the tender dropped us off. It was a five minute bus ride and we were at the bottom of the rock face we were going to ascend. It looked high up!!

Within 5 minutes, we were at the top and ‘wow’, the views were spectacular. Up the top, there was a shop, cafe and restaurant. There was a horse shoe to commemorate the opening of the sky bar which was in Moi 2017 (May?). They are still working on some of the landscape up there and it looked like there were footpaths to go exploring which I didn’t do, but, if I ever come back, I think I would go up there for the whole day and have a good look around. I was worried about paying £75, but it was definitely worth it.

Panoramic photo showing the lake to the glacier on the left, Marella Explorer anchored in the middle and the way out to the right

We then headed back to get the tender back to the ship. I have put a 5 minute video of the trip back down on my Facebook page.

So today, I got to see a glacier and felt like I was on top of the world – fantastic day. The Marella tour was good and would recommend this one. There is also another organised tour to the Briksdal Glacier which Sue and Lesley went on and they said it was a good trip, so maybe another one to consider. Their tour had a 45 minute walk to the glacier or you could book an alternative tour which included a troll car ride up so you didn’t need to walk as far but could also experience the glacier. This is probably the one I would book if I returned.

Day 4 – Molde

Molde (24.000 inhabitants) is a busy industry and trading centre, in addition to being the episcopate and the administrative centre for the county of Møre og Romsdal. The “Town of Roses” also has various educational facilities as well as offering many cultural activities, including an international literature festival and the famous annual Molde International Jazz Festival.

I had nothing booked for this port as it was visiting the troll wall which I had previously done from Andalsnes. On listening to some of the passengers on board, one of the trips was not that good which was one that included the great Atlantic Road. Sue, Lesley, Julie and Jim had booked one called the Valley of the Trolls and they said it was fantastic.

At night now, it is very light and these photos were taken well into the early hours of the morning!

Day 5 – Sea Day

At 7am this morning, we passed the Artic Circle. Again, I spent most of the day relaxing in the thermal spa. Lots of people have reporting spotting dolphins and whales today. I haven’t seen any, but I never do! I missed seeing them on the cruise I did earlier this year.

Day 6 – Honningsvag

Today was a trip to visit the North Cape (another Marella organised excursion). The trip up was fabulous. Lovely views of the mountains and reindeer. We stopped at a Sami Camp for a while and had the opportunity to take photos of the traditional Sami with reindeer and their teepee.

The coach then carried on to the North Cape. Our tour was really lucky and we got to get fantastic views and photos and just as we were leaving, the cloud came down and you couldn’t see very well. This remained for the people who were on the afternoon tours. Take a look at my photos and the one around the monument of the seven circles (find more info on this) was one of the last ones I took and you can see how cloudy/foggy it was.

When we (Jim was with me on this tour) returned to the tender port, there is an Ice bar right where we get on and off the tender, so we visited it. It was cold in there, but felt warmer than it did on the North Cape! We had to pay to go in, and were given a drink in a shot glass made of ice. Fortunately, they were non alcoholic drinks and we got to try two. We were then told that when we leave, we throw the glass (made of ice) into the water and make a wish.

As well as the ice bar and some shops, there was a tourist information center with a shop and outside was some trolls and a statue of Bamse, a famous St Bernard dog.

Day 7 – Alta

I had visited Alta in 2018 on my northern lights cruise so opted to do an excursion with Marella called ‘Alta River Boat Cruise’ (it was also £5 for a shuttle to town and it was Sunday and everything was shut). From the description, I was sure what to expect. We had a lovely coach ride to the location (it was at the place where they build the Ice Hotel in the winter). When we got there, we were split into two groups and one had waffles and tea whilst the other group had the ‘river cruise’ trip. When you think about river cruise you think about a small cruiser. Our cruise boat was this;

Not totally what I was expecting, but was a fun and exhilarating trip.

Where we were for this excursion, I could see the slate mine I visited in 2018 up in the mountain. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have any waffles as they had no gluten free ones this time. It was a great excursion and our guide was really informative.

Day 8 – Tromso

I had a bit of a lazy day in Tromso. Marella charge to take you into town and having visited Tromso previously, I decided to have a spa day. I had really sore head, neck and shoulders so treated myself to an acupuncture appointment which was very through and helped ease my pain. I then had my nails done as mine were chipped. I took a few photos from the ship and instead of being shrouded in white, it was green, so totally different to when I came here in March 2018.

A lovely photo of the Marella Explorer in Alta

Day 9 – Bodo

It is a small town and the cruise ships are only just starting to discover it’s beauty and the residents of Bodo are starting to invest in building hotels and improving the roads etc.

At this port, I opted for another excursion with Marella called Scenic Sights and the Arctic Rail. I was expecting the tour to have booked seats on the rail for all the group to be together, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case and we had members of the general public in the coach we were told to get on. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong side and my views were not brilliant.

After an hour on the train, we got off and headed to Rognan where the Blood Road Museum and some old traditional buildings were. Again, we were split into two groups. One group looked at the museum while the other group went to eat. There was nothing I could eat, so I decided to go outside and take some photos (I took lots!).

We then went on to look around the Blood Road Museum. It is all in Norwegian, but the tour guide gave us lots of information.

The coach driver took us on a scenic coach ride, where we stopped at a cafe and were given a sweet tortilla with some brown cheese (Brunost) that tastes like caramel and is actually brown in colour and very sweet. I didn’t get to try it but had a meringue and bottle of water. Those that I did ask found it very sweet, but different.

We continued in the coach to a location near Bodo where the water forms a mini whirlpool (called Saltraumen whirlpool). Here is a link to the Wiki page about it. It was very interesting to watch although the tide was quite low so not as strong as it could have been.

Panoramic photo of the viewing area

We then carried on back to the ship. We were the last group back and they were waiting for us so they could leave.

Day 11 – Sea Day

I made the most of the spa and had a further acupuncture treatment. I did find that the choice of entertainment on sea days on Marella wasn’t much and preferred to just chill either in the spa or on deck.

Day 12 – Flam (pronounced Flom)

This was a tender port (the only one we were supposed to have had on this trip). Flam is a very pretty place. I had booked a tour called Naeroy Fjord and Stalheim, It was a fjord cruise with coffee and cakes at the Stalheim hotel and then a ride down a very winding road and back to Flam. I took many photos, but I will put a few up here and the rest on my facebook page.

Naeroy Fjord – Spectacular. The boat went right up to a waterfall so a crew member could get some of the water for us to try.

The Stalheim hotel was a red building on top of a hill and had fantastic views. There was also and old world war bunker there. We had a short stop here (coffee and danish too) before heading down the winding road with 11 hairpin bends – again, we had fabulous views and saw a couple of waterfalls.

After this, we had a short trip back to the port.

I had booked a rail ticket to do the Flam Railway independently (it cost £55 for a return on the train) but ended up cancelling it as the train got back at 16.55 and the last tender was at 17.00 and I didn’t want to risk missing it (and not sure if they would have waited!). If you do want to do it, there is a separate queue for independent travelers and you can book when you get there or online. When you get off the ship (or tender), it is a 2-3 minute walk to the ticket office and station so very easy to do independently.

Cruising out of Flam was fabulous and we had some live singing from Pippa Langhorne. Having the scenery of the mountains loom over the ship was absolutely amazing. We had some rain, but that didn’t stop us still enjoying it.

Panoramic of the ship leaving Flam

Day 13 – Sea Day

Another sea day and on our way back to Newcastle. I had a lovely day chilling in the spa and then having my final acupuncture treatment. It has definitely helped with my neck pain (which I knew it would). Tonight was the last night on board and at midnight the ship was pretty quiet.

Day 14 – Disembarkation

I was off the ship by 8.30am and on my way to the train station for a 5 hour train journey back to Bristol.

As always on a cruise, the staff was outstanding. I loved the casino, managed by the lovely Uros, and can’t fault any of the staff on board. They really tried to help with my dietary requirements and most of the time did well. I managed to request that I had the same table every night (or at least the same waiter) and it worked really well.

I hope you found this blog informative and not too long! As always, I will post all my photos on my Facebook page. If you are looking for a cruise or holiday, don’t hesitate to contact me and I would be more than happy to look/book for you.

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Brisbane – Australia Zoo

Due to the unexpected delay to the embarkation onto Sea Princess due to Cyclone Oma, I decided to visited Australia Zoo. I had meant to go when I came to Australia in 2017, but it was too hot and my friend Nicki had told me it was quite big to walk around and there was very little cover. Being a bit apprehensive about the amount of walking and the temperature, I decided not to go. On this trip, my solo friend, Sue, had decided to fly out to join me for the NZ cruise and the rest of the trip in Australia. With this in mind, Sue and I decided that if we were going to go to Australia Zoo, we were going to do it in style so we hired a chauffeur driven caddie which came with our very own tour guide. We decided that this would give us a good chance of seeing a lot of the zoo and we wouldn’t have to walk a lot!!

a map of the zoo

We arrived at 10am in time for our Caddie tour and we had 5 hours to explore the zoo. As we drove around, our first stop was with some lovely ladies who were holding some of the animals for visitors to have a photo taken with (they had a professional photographer on hand as well). I took a few snaps.

After taking some lovely selfies with the animals, we continued our tour and went past the tortoises where there was a talk about them. We stopped briefly for photos. They were massive. They are native to the Galapagos Islands.

We were given some kangaroo food and then went to the kangaroo enclosure to feed them. They were all just lazing around and looking cute.

Walking through the kangaroo enclosure, we then came to the Koala area. I much preferred seeing the Koalas in their natural habitat which you will see in later blogs.

We then headed off to Africa. Africa was Steve Irwin’s dream and his family have bought it to life. It really is a big ‘enclosure’ and has the animals together as they would be in Africa.

We then continued on to see the crocodile show. I have put a video of this on my facebook page. We were given VIP seats and also got to meet some of the other animals.

After seeing the show and having some lunch we headed out to the Animal Hospital. Australia’s largest and busiest wildlife hospital. While in there, I saw a kangaroo in a man made pouch who had just arrived. It’s mother had been killed and they managed to save the joey.

We were also shown the operating area and there was lots of Koala’s in there in who were injured or they had gonorrhea (which is quite common among the Koalas).

We then took a look around the rest of the zoo, which included birds, meerkats, lizards and the tigers.

Our next stop was at ‘Bindi’s Island which is where the Lemurs were. The Lemurs were roaming around and you are requested to remain at least two feet away from them. If they come to you, that is different, but you shouldn’t approach them. They looked like they had a lot of character and the keepers certainly knew them. The island was also home to the tortoises.

Before leaving, we visited the Steve Irwin museum. I have lots of photos and it was nice to see him so well remembered.

My Facebook post of the Crocodile show caused a bit of a controversy, as my Facebook friends accused the keepers were of tormenting the crocodiles for the performance as shown in the video. Although I don’t tend to agree with zoos, I found Australia Zoo very nice and pleasant and the animals looked well cared for and had plenty of space.

There is currently a big problem for the crocs in Queensland. There is new legislation that allows for the harvesting of crocodile eggs for commercial and scientific use. Australia Zoo has put up a petition here to try and stop it. Also, here is a link to a Facebook video by the Irwin family explaining it in more detail.

As always, I have a lot more photos, so will upload them all to my Facebook page. Thank you for reading, and don’t forget, that, if you are looking for a holiday, I am now an Independent Travel Consultant and can take your bookings. My Facebook Page is linked here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Life on Arcadia

I spent six and a half weeks on the Arcadia during my half world cruise – Southampton to Brisbane (disembarking in Sydney due to Cyclone Oma).

The days just go by. During the day, there is a schedule of activities going on around the ship in various bars, rooms and the theater. From Port lectures to guest speakers, there is so much to do!

I decided to go for a walk around the ship and photograph the spaces where the activities take place, along with what goes on where. I am still learning where everything is on the ship, so bear with me!

At the very top of the ship (Deck 11) towards the back (aft) there is a sports court where lots of activities take part like tennis, walking football and basketball. There is also a space to practice your swing for golf.

In the middle of the ship on deck 11 is the Sindhu and the East Bar. When I went there to take my photo there was a cribbage get together happening.
In the East Bar, there was people just relaxing having a drink.

I then proceeded to deck 10 which is the Sun Deck. Staying mid ship, there is the retreat is used for some classes.

In the retreat on the day of the photograph was dance lessons. It is quite a popular class.

If you then head towards the back of the ship, there is an area where deck quoits and shuffleboard are played.

If you head back towards the front of the ship, you pass the retractable roof for the Neptune Bar and pool area.

Heading back inside, you then come to the crows nest (which is right at the front (fwd) of the ship) and the viceroy room (a meeting room) which is usually used for get-togethers or classes. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the crows nest.

Heading down (at the front of the ship) to deck 9 is the Lido deck. The first place you come across is the Oasis spa and gym. In the spa, you can have lots of treatments (which you have to pay for). There is also the thermal and hydro pool which is an area that you pay extra for access to on a day or whole cruise basis. I’ve not been yet, so no photos of that, but I did manage to get some photos of the spa receptions, hair dressers and the gym (which is free).

There is a little know secret (probably more well known that I think!) that if you walk down the side of the gym, there is a door that leads to a small deck area that is right at the front of the ship and has no restriction on the views. Its a great place to go and take some photos of the sunset or when you are sailing in or out of a port. There is also a seat. I thought this would be a brilliant place to see the Panama Canal transit, but unfortunately P&O decided to make it an exclusive area and charge £75pp when transiting the canal.

After coming out of the spa, you head through a door that takes you to the Neptune pool and bar area. On hot sunny days the roof is open – it is a popular area and has always been busy when I have gone there. As well as the pool and bar, they also server lunch there (Neptune Grill).

After exiting the Neptune pool and bar (and heading towards the back of the ship, you come into the Belvedere restaurant. This is where you come for lunch when you embark and during the cruise you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks here. I’ve only eaten the odd lunch here (mainly salad) as there is very little to cater for my dietary needs.

Heading out of the back of The Belvedere, is the Aquarius pool and bar. This is where the sail away parties are held and late night stargazing. They also hold a party from 9.30pm til midnight where you can dance away under the stars. This area was also used for events such as ‘build a boat on a ship’ which is an activity where you use items only found on the ship to make you own boat which then has to be tested to see if it floats and can survive a big wave (the guy jumping into the pool!). They also held the crossing of the equator ceremony.

Decks 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 are cabins and mid forward of deck 4,5 and 6 are laundrettes and there is also one on deck 4 forward (this is an additional one).

Staying at the front of the ship and heading down to deck 3, this is where you will find the top tier of the palladium theatre.

Then start heading towards the back, you come to the screening room which is where they show films. Space is limited so you have to get tickets from either the library or reception. They hold three or four screenings a day.

Continuing towards the back, there is some more meeting rooms where they hold classes. Bridge class was happening when I took my photos.

Next is the ‘essentials’ shop. Unless you class sweets and chocolates as essentials, there is not a very good stock of essentials.

There is then a little cafe where you can buy costa coffee and get free cake. I’m not sure if the free cake is restricted to certain times of the day or if it is just around 4pm for afternoon tea. On further investigation, it turned out that the drinks were complimentary to have with your costa coffee!! I still managed to get one though even though I didn’t buy a coffee or hot chocolate!!

The library is next door to the cafe. You can come here to access the internet (chargeable) on their computers, borrow a book, do a jigsaw or find a game, dvd or just sit quietly and read.

On leaving the library (continuing to the back of the ship), there is a shopping area with clothing, jewellery, bags, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen (to name a few). All the staff are lovely there. Always up for a chat!

After leaving the shops, you are then on the third floor of the atrium and head into the piano bar. Mostly a quiet place to come during the day where you can have a drink, read or play a board game.

On walking through the piano bar on the starboard side, you pass a small area where you can put in flower requests, then a gin tasting bar.

After the Gin tasting area, you enter the Photo Gallery. This is where all the photos taken by the ships photographers can be viewed and purchased.

The last place at the back on this ship is the top floor of the Meridian Restaurant. This is where the ‘freedom’ diners eat.

As this is the promenade deck, it would be wrong not to show you photos. I always found that there was a shady side to the ship (which was always the quieter side).

And, of course, a Sunny side (well, for the majority of our cruise!!).

Going down to Deck 2, (starting forward and heading towards the back). So, you have the second level of the theater. Coming out of the theater, leads you to the casino. They have tables where you can play roulette, blackjack and three card prime. They also sell the bingo tickets here.

Opposite the casino is the Rising Sun Pub. In here, they often held quizzes, football and rugby on the TV, karaoke, themed evening and lots more. It was a nice place to have a drink and watch the world go by!!

As you headed to the back of the ship after the casino and pub, you come to the Gallery. Here you can purchase prints and pictures that can be delivered to your home.

On leaving the Whitewall Gallery, you come into the Intermezzo Bar/Cafe which is also located in the middle floor of the Atrium. It is another area to just sit, play board games or read or meet up for a coffee. Opposite is the Ocean Grill restaurant which is a specialty restaurant. I had afternoon tea in there one afternoon with my friends Allan and John and they even managed to cater for my dietary needs.

Onwards then to The Spinnaker Bar. Another place to sit, relax or have a drink. Some of the quizzes are also held here. On this cruise in particular is the 9.45pm brain teaser quiz. There was also a pre dinner quiz at 5.45pm that was held here.

After the Spinnaker bar is the lower floor of the Meridian Restaurant. This is where the Club (or 6.30pm and 8.30pm) diners eat.

Deck 5 (mid ship) is where the main reception area is along with Future Cruise Sales and the excursions desk.

I really loved my time on Arcadia. The food was brilliant and I was well taken care of (Gluten/Lacose free vegetarian). I will post all of the photos I have from Arcadia on my Facebook page.

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Sydney Part 1

After visiting Newcastle, we travelled slowly overnight to our scheduled stop in Sydney. We were due to be there in the early hours on the 20th February staying overnight until 11pm on 21st. The first day, we were due to be anchored in the harbour and would get to Sydney by tender. The tender would take us to the Man of War steps right by the Sydney Opera House. The Man of War steps is also right near the Botanical Gardens, so a good opportunity to take a stroll though them too, if its what you like doing.

I was going to take the train to Katoomba, but the weather was very low cloud and intermittent showers, so I opted to do a hop on hop off bus. I decided I would get off and change to the Bondi Beach tour.

The photos below are of the ‘living’ building which I loved when I came to Sydney in 2017.

I got off at the stop for the Australian National Maritime Museum. This was included as part of my city ticket and also included entrance on to the HMAS Vampire (ship) and HMAS Onslow (submarine). I found the submarine to be very small considering the amount of crew it would have to hold and the beds were tiny!

After completing (there is still a small section of the tour I haven’t done so will find a time to do the whole tour) as much as I could and getting back to Circular Quay, I decided to go back to the ship, have dinner. After Dinner, I got the tender back to shore, and by then it was dark.

As I was waiting the Arcadia was scheduled to dock at the Overseas Passenger Terminal which is located in Circular Quay.

I had planned to do some more touring on the second day (21st Feb), but due to Cyclone Oma, Brisbane Port had been shut, so I spent the morning trying to sort our my onward journey. In the end, I got off the ship and went on a small cruise around the harbour. The weather was, again, raining and very grey.

So overnight in the early hours of the 22nd February, a letter was slipped under the door from reception informing us (all the people who were due to get off in Brisbane) that due to Cyclone Oma, we would not be getting to Brisbane until the 26th. As my second cruise was delayed, I thought that it would be handy to stay on the ship until Brisbane. Unfortunately, it was not possible to stay on the ship till Brisbane as it transpired that it was very possible that they wouldn’t be stopping there at all. Because of this a flight was booked and P&O had booked us all into various hotels. Of course, this delay also meant that I had three days in Brisbane. What I did in Brisbane will be shared on the next blog!

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10 reasons to do a World Cruise with P &O Cruises

I wanted to do a different kind of top 10 and rather than being my own opinions, I thought I would ask my P&O World Cruise Facebook group why they chose to do the World Cruise with P&O. After all, its important to listen to our customers, and if they like a certain cruise line, we should share the reasons why.

1 – Great for Solos! P&O are very good for solo cruisers. They have adult only ships, solo cabins and often have meet ups for solo passengers.

My reason for choosing P&O was the itinerary and the fact the cruise went it Brisbane. I’ve also cruised with P&O before and loved the experience. Janine Chrispin, Bristol, UK

I am a solo cruiser and did my first World Cruise 2 years ago with P&O Arcadia. I had such a wonderful time I am hoping I will have the same experience 2nd time around. Jennifer Mitchell, Milton Keynes, UK

2 – Itineraries. P&O offer a range of itineraries and with the World Cruise it is split into sectors giving customers the option to do parts of the cruise to places they want to visit.

It was the places the trip was going and the time of year. We try to holiday in the winter rather than the summer. We had done Southampton to Australia with Princess through the Suez so to go the other way through Panama was great. The fact that it’s with P & O was not a major factor, as we like all cruise lines. We are doing Southampton to Hong Kong. Val Rose, Devon, UK.

We have chosen this P and O cruise because of the dates, the itinerary and because it sailed from the UK. We went on Arcadia last Christmas, we liked the ship but the cruise director was poor. Hoping for a better one for this trip, it would make all the difference. Linda Birchmore, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, UK

3 – Value for Money. P&O offer good value for money with their cruises and there is a lot included in the fare. 24/7 food, gym, swimming, entertainment and of course the opportunity to meet new people.

I happened to come across a sale online with P&O UK, the price was very good as was the onboard credit. It had always been a dream for me to do this cruise. Everything just seemed to fall into place at the right time. We usually cruise with Celebrity and have enjoyed all the cruises on Solstice and Millennium. Of course for me a big plus is no cooking, no cleaning, JOY! First time with P&O UK. Allan Jenkins, Cairns, Australia

4. A brand you can trust. P&O have a good reputation and have built a solid brand. They have a good following and a lot of people trust them.

Only cruised with P&O and at the moment I can find no fault with them so not worth risking another company. Marion Ridsdill Birmingham UK

We have always cruised with P & O and only know what we’ve been told about other cruise lines some good some bad. We’ve always enjoyed our previous cruises so decided on P & O for our first world cruise. Better the devil you know. Joan Grace, Coventry, UK.

5. Departures from Southampton. The choice of cruises from Southampton is possibly the best of any departure port in the world. Southampton is easy to reach by aeroplane, train and car.

We are from the Netherlands and did several (10) cruises with HAL. We wanted to do a worldcruise with HAL but realised we would visit many ports already visited. So we came across P&O. They visit some different ports and, also important they leave and arrive in “nearby” Southampton, language spoken is English and -not least important- the price was very right. Willem Gelens, Netherlands

We wanted to visit Australia again and some of the South Pacific Island nations without the long flights involved. Cruising is therefore the only option. Only a few cruise lines offer this possibility and, of them, we are most familiar with P&O. Ron Fairbairn, Hampshire, UK

6. Friendly staff and crew. Many people cruise with P&O because they find that the staff are friendly, familiar and happy to help and feel that they are visiting family when cruising with P&O.

I had sailed with P&O lots and my daughter worked on Arcadia for a year her first ship and our first P&O. During that year we became part of the family x Love the ship and the people. Dawn Budd, UK

We have always cruised with P & O and only know what we’ve been told about other cruise lines some good some bad. We’ve always enjoyed our previous cruises so decided on P & O for our first world cruise. Better the devil you know. Joan Grace, Coventry, UK.

7. World Cruise Sector Embarkation locations. With the world cruise, there are sectors, so if you are not doing the whole world cruise, you can visit locations that may not be available all year around.

We are sailing Southampton to SAN Francisco. My friend has travelled with P&O on nearly 40 cruises over many years and thinks they are the best company to book with. I am relatively new to cruising in comparison having done four previous trips with P&O plus one with Cunard and one with TUI. My friend wanted me to experience sailing the Panama Canal as well as visit SAN Francisco. Both new trips for me but ones she has enjoyed previously. Wendy Castling, Marske by the Sea near Redcar, UK

We are doing Sydney to Singapore. I have always wanted to visit Australia and the Far East so this way we get to see it in one holiday. The dates worked well for us too. Sandra Harvey, UK

Our reason was basically due to the dates fitting in. We wanted to do a cruise around NZ but didn’t want to fly home from Sydney as one way will be bad enough! Having done a few cruises on P&O we were quite happy to do the long trip home with them. Stephen Skitt, Woolwich, UK

All the words above are genuinely from member of the P&O World Cruise Arcadia 2019 Facebook group.

8. The onboard Language is English. If English is the only language, then you’re in luck with P&O as all announcements are made in English.

9. British themed ships. All P&O ships are English themed and even have an English pub and a traditional British Sail away party. And I mean with flag waving and everything. Its a bit like the last night of the proms!

10. It’s a cashless system. When you check in in the cruise terminal, they take your credit card details and a photo and issue you with a card. This card is important and it is used to open the door of your cabin, check in and off the ship in ports and to pay for drinks, spa treatment and anything that you haven’t pre paid. There is no need to carry any cash on board and you can check your account anytime either at reception or on the cabin TV if it is offered.

If you can think of any more reasons to travel with P&O, please comment below. I would love to hear why you think you should do a World Cruise with P&O.

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Noumea, New Caledonia

As we were preparing to leave Lautoka, the captain made an announcement regarding a cyclone weather system (named Oma) was heading to Port Vila, so we were now not going there. I was disappointed in this as it was the port we were going to on my Birthday (February 15th) and I had planned and booked a helicopter ride. The new plan was that we would arrive in Noumea at around 3pm on the 15th and stay overnight and that the crew were trying to get us an additional port in Newcastle, New South Wales for the 19th February. Port Vila was the second port we were going to miss because of the cyclone, and as much as it was a disappointment, its good to see that P&O consider the safety of the passengers over trying to get to a port where a cyclone is forming. Lots of passengers were not happy, though and still continue to moan.

We had a lovely sail in to Noumea and arrived as predicted at about 3pm. We were in a container port, so the only way out was by courtesy bus.

I decided that I needed to get off and thought I would get the bus to the terminal port so that I can access some free WiFi. That was not happening! There was so many passengers with the same idea, that I had no chance of connecting to the internet. I then went across to the supermarket to buy some chocolates for the staff on the ship. I discovered the next time I had internet that I has spent a lot of money and also heard a lot of people feeling like they had been conned with the amount they were charged. I returned to the ship and had dinner in the restaurant and was surprised with a birthday cake from my husband and the waiters sang happy birthday to me.. It was a really nice birthday.

There was a shuttle bus running to Lemon Bay in the evening, so I decided to go along and take a look. Lots of people on the returning coach said that it was very expensive. I wonder if the shop owners up the prices when they know there is a cruise ship in port!

After a brief outing, I returned to the ship and went to bed in preparation for my morning tour.

When I woke up, I was greeted with rain and wind (I am guessing that this was down to Cyclone Oma – it was also very humid so my camera lens kept steaming up so some photos are a bit hazy). For my tour, I chose highlights of Noumea and the Aquarium. The highlight tour included driving around through the old town. The guide was very informative and said the old town was his favourite area of Noumea.

We then drove to the aquarium where we had an hour to look around. The animals looked a bit happier than in the one in San Francisco.

We then headed through town and back to the ship (you can see how windy it is from some of the trees in the photos).

I found Noumea OK. Probably not the best visit due to the weather, but I also found it very expensive and hard to convert from French francs to GBP. I don’t think it is a place that I would go out of my way to visit on its own but it would be nice to return for a day trip on another cruise one day. Next stop is now Newcastle, NSW on 19th february due to the itinerary change because of Oma!

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Lautoka, Fiji

We arrived in Lautoka on 13th February. We were due into Pago Pago on 11th (this was a change to our original port of Apia which was changed at the end of December), but due to Cyclone Oma, it was going to be missed. We had been at sea for 7 days since leaving Hawaii on the 5th, having lost a day due to crossing the international dateline (we didn’t have the 11th in the end). We had about 48 hours of really bad seas (force 9/10) and large sea swells of around 6m. We finally docked in Lautoka and it was a lovely sunny day.

Originally, I was going to do an island escape tour to Tivua Island, but due to developing Bronchitis (again!!), I was now on an antibiotic that made your more sensitive to UV, so changed it to ‘Fijian Homestead and History’ tour which was more coach based. It was four hours long.

We left the port and headed out and stopped for a photo opportunity near the ‘sleeping giant’ mountain. Called so because, if you look closely, you can see the outline of a face and its looks like it is sleeping!

We passed several sugar cane fields, which all had railway tracks along the front to take the sugar cane to the refinery, which was near where we docked. It was really nice to see a side of Fiji that you don’t normally see.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at South Sea Orchid Garden. We were shown a beautiful home which was steeped in history and had a lot of furniture that went back four generations and were either made or brought to the island from family members. We also met the guides grandparents.

We were then shown to a tea room where we were given tea, cake and sandwiches (nothing for me as they didn’t cater for me so I just had water – they offered me juice, but I was fine with the water) and we were then invited to take a look around the gardens at the beautiful lily pond and orchids. We spent about an hour here.

We then headed to Nadi and had an opportunity to shop for some souvenirs, but I found the shop rather crowded as several other coaches turned up at the same time.

carved sculpture outside shops

After Nadi, we then headed to a traditional Fiji Village called ‘Sabeto’.

It was quite strange in the village. The homes seem very basic, yet all the villagers had mobile phones. It was quite weird that mobile phones would be put above the basics in every day life!

In the village, we went to the village hall and had a cava welcome by the heads of the village. I will post a couple of videos on my facebook page of the performances from the villagers.

After the village we headed back to the ship.

I enjoyed seeing a different side to Fiji that you would normally see. The next stop was due to be Port Vila on 15th February which was also my Birthday. Due to Cyclone Oma, it was cancelled and we headed to Noumea instead and would arrive at 3pm 15/2/2019 for an overnight stay.

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Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Well, this port was a bit of a surprise. Due to Cyclone Oma, and use missing two South Pacific ports, the captain announced that on the 19th February we would visit an additional port in Newcastle. The tours team on the ship managed to get together some tours so I opted to do the Dolphin Watch and Port Stevens tour.

On a couple of the Arcadia Facebook groups, there was a couple of grumbles from fellow Australians about going to Newcastle and how rubbish it was. I was then worried that it would be horrible, but was pleasantly surprised how nice it was. We were docked in a commercial coal port, so on fist sight all you could see was the coal sorting frames and containers. Once we were on the coach and heading to Port Stephens, the scenery started to change and it was a very pretty place. We stopped at Birubi Point. Apparently, a lot of the sand from the dunes are exported and a lot of it is exported to Hawaii.

After a brief 5-8min stop, we then headed to the harbour at Port Stephens to board the boat to see the dolphins. Whilst waiting, I noticed lots of people looking up at the tree I was under and they were taking photos. Turned out, there was a couple of cockatiels sat in the tree. Very strange site for us Brits!

When we were on the boat, we took a casual cruise out into the harbour to look for Dolphins. It wasn’t long before we spotted some dolphins. It was quite a big pod of them. They were fishing, though so were not interested in playing for us to see them properly. I will post some photos below. They’re not brilliant, but the boat we were on abide by rules to keep the dolphins safe by keeping 50m away.

We then cruised back to the pontoon stopping briefly to allow passengers to do some ‘boom netting’. Boom Netting is a net at the back of the boat that you can sit in while the boat moves along – a bit like a mobile spa bath!!

We then had an hour drive back to the ship.

I then dropped off some shopping at the ship and caught the shuttle bus into Newcastle town centre. It was pretty much like any town centre. I took a few photos in town and on the way back.

I was surprised how pretty Port Stephens was considering the comments from the fellow Aussie travellers. I would like to think that all ports have something nice to do in, you just have to keep an open mind!

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Oahu, Hawaii

We left San Francisco as scheduled on the evening of 30th January to start our journey to Hawaii. We were scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Feb 4th at 8am. On the 31st on the 12 noon announcement, the captain made the 12 noon announcement that we would be ‘thrashing the waters’ to get to Honolulu as quickly as possible as we has a very sick passenger onboard. He then also asked for everybody’s attention. The patient required blood, so he asked that anyone who had their blood donor card with them, was well and was either O negative or positive and willing to donate to make their way to the excursion desk where they could be processed. A lot of people made themselves available and the ship carried on.

The following day, another announcement was made, this time asking for anyone who was in the blood group and well, and was willing to donate to make their way to the excursion desk. It transpired that the sick passenger had 26 pints of blood donated through the 31 Jan-3rd Feb. We arrived in Honolulu at 23.00 on the 3rd February. Unfortunately the only passenger allowed off was him as their was not any security staff to allow us to get off. The patient was then taken away in an ambulance.

The Honolulu cruise terminal. Plenty of space, toilets both here and at the exit, but no Wi-Fi.

So, as scheduled I got off the ship in Honolulu on day one, February 4th. We had another overnight stay, so I had planned to go to the airport and pick up a hire car that I had pre booked through holiday extras via my personaliser on P&O. I got the taxi to the airport (after struggling to get and uber – that’s another story!) The taxi driver asked me what hire car company I needed to go to, so I checked the paperwork, but there was no company listed and also all it said was to collect at the airport, so I just asked the taxi to drop me at the car hire rental desks and I will see if I could find out what car hire company I was booked with. I approached the Avis desk, and the lady checked the booking on their system and on Budgets, but no joy. She couldn’t see anything having gone through my paperwork either. I just asked her how much it would be for a car hire until midnight tonight and I rebooked through them. I had no other idea how I could find out what car hire company the car was booked thorough so decided to sort it out when I return. Anyway, I collected my hire car and proceeded back to the ship to pick up two friend, Brendan and Rob, who were going to join me on a trip to the Kualoa Ranch and on a tour around the northern part of the island.

Kualoa is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, as well as a popular tourist attraction and filming location on the windward coast of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi. It is located about 24 miles from Honolulu, and 32 miles from Haleiwa. We were requested to arrive one hour before, but due to the mix up with the car, we got there just about 25 minutes early which was fine. I think the reason they requested you get there earlier is so that you spend money in their shop as I really couldn’t see any other reason to arrive one hour early!

Brendan, Me and Rob – official photo!

The description of the tour we chose from the website of Kualoa Ranch is as follows:

“Experience our familiar Ka’a’awa Valley, known as Hollywood’s “Hawaii Backlot,” to see where over 50 of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies and TV shows were filmed, including even some of the 1960’s Elvis classics. Hop aboard a vintage school bus and take a photo of yourself at the infamous Jurassic Park fallen tree, find Godzilla’s footprints, see the Windtalkers battlegrounds and visit several other locations including the famous “penguin” road site from 50 First Dates,the road site from You Me & Dupree, the house structure from Mighty Joe Young, and numerous Hawaii Five-0 and LOST areas, like Hurley’s golf course! You might even see a filming in progress! You will also stop at an amazing WWII army bunker, built entirely into the side of the mountain range. There you’ll find movie posters, props and memorabilia from lots of the movies filmed at Kualoa through the years, as well as marvel at the Kualoa WWII artifacts and exhibits”.

We certainly saw everything from above and it was a really nice tour. We drove passed a derelict sugar mill and some hidden bunkers and upto Battery Cooper. Coast Artillery existed as a distinct branch within the Army since 1901 and as a combatant “line” arm after 1920. Its stated mission was to protect fleet bases, defeat naval and air attacks against cities and harbors, undertake beach defense while acting as army or theater reserve artillery, and provide a mine-planter service (more information from a website by clicking the link above)

As we walked further around the bunker, we then came across rooms filled with memorabilia and props of many of the programmes filmed.

Coming outside was a fabulous view of a beach the bus driver and tour guide called ‘Rainbow Beach’.

Rainbow Beach and the road we will follow when we leave the ranch. I also believe that the airstrip was along that road too (the image from Battery Cooper)

Carrying on the tour, we went through lots of pretty land and onto places where the films were filmed. Our next stop was a spot where in Jumanji, they are being chased by a large animal (elephant I think) and into the trees and there was a team member recording people running and cgi-ing in the elephant chasing them. I can’t run, so didn’t do this. There was also a big log from Jurassic park. This location was used for lots of different programmes. Maybe you recognise from some films! Please comment if you do!

We carried on around the tour and came to Hurley’s two hole golf course (from Lost).

Here is a few more photos of the ranch. It really is a beautiful place.

Just as the tour was ending, we went passed some old traditional Hawaiian buildings. They all had different heights of brickwork, which is apparently to do with hierarchy – the hire the brick base, the higher the status of the family members living there.

So the last visit of our tour was to see the pigs that were wild but they contain them now (I am presuming for the safety of visitors. One thing that was pointed out, is that all animals on the ranch are protected and can’t be hunted, so that was nice to hear.

We then had a quick drink and snack in the café and then left to do our tour. I had purchased an app on my phone called ‘Shaka Oahu’. It was a round the island guided tour. Once downloaded, it used GPS so you didn’t need data and as you passed certain points, it told you about the area and what was in the area to visit. It was a really good app and we stopped at several of the beaches on the way round. We were running out of daylight, so we just stopped for photos until the sun set. The tour also too us past the Dole pineapple plant (again – didn’t visit at it was 6.15 when we drove by and it closed at 5.30pm). Here is some photos from the beaches we went to while following the app route. The North Shore really is a beautiful place to go. If you visit Hawaii, definitely consider hiring a car and driving. No need to worry about toilets, they are at every beach (some are just port-a-loos, but that’s better than none!). I also found driving the road easy as the max speed is 45mph and most roads just 35mph, so its a slow drive.

The next day, I got up early and caught the courtesy bus to the local shopping mall and had a walk around the shops (I didn’t buy anything, which will please my husband!). Took a photo from the Mall (it was really hot even at 10am!). I think it was the marina!

I then got the bus back to the ship – we had to be back on board by 11.30am ready to depart for our next port. A couple of images taken from the ship.

We left Honolulu at about 12.30pm (I think there was a few passengers who didn’t make it back on board, so missed the boat).

Goodbye Honolulu

Honolulu was great – still lots to see there, so will return again soon, I hope!

Onwards now, our next scheduled port is Pago Pago and on the 8th February, we will cross the equator. My next blog will be about that and an update on our ports as, yet again, the captain made and announcement on the evening of the 8th February that is affecting our next port!

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San Francisco

We had two days in San Francisco but unfortunately I didn’t get off until late afternoon on the first day. I decided to take the hop on hop off bus on my own (I had purchased a Go City Card which was discounted for five attractions (I purchased it online before leaving for the trip)).

It was very fascinating travelling through San Francisco, we were driving through several districts and one that stuck a cord was the Tenderloin district. The tenderloin district is the poorest and has the highest number of homeless and driving through, you could really see this.

The bus also took us through the financial district and to Union Square.

The whole of the tour took around three hours and included going across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was very windy and after getting back on bus for the return trip, I opted to stay at the bottom of the bus. Because the sun not being out, the bridge doesn’t look as colourful as the photos you see. I did manage to get a really nice photo from the Walt Disney Museum (it will be below as it was on day 2)

The bus then returned to Pier 39 where I visited the Aquarium. I found the aquarium pretty sad as the enclosures seem quite small. Take a look at the photos and decide for yourself. Usually, the aquariums that I have been to have been quite big but this one wasn’t very big or nice (in my opinion).

I walked back to the ship to have a last dinner with my table mates as three of them were getting off tomorrow.

On day two, I decided to get up and be off the ship by 10am. I got an Uber to The Walt Disney Museum. I am a big fan of Walt Disney and the very first holiday abroad that I went on was to Florida – it was a competition that my mum and dad won. I even remember the day we got the letter! It was when I was leaving for my last year of junior school (year 6) trip to Swanage. This was in 1984 and most of my brothers had gone on cruises for their year trip, but because of the Falklands War, the ships had been called to duty, anyway, I digress!!

Going into the Walt Disney Family museum was like reading his biography in 3D. I walked around in awe of everything! There was a lot of information and original drawings. Here is a selection of the photos I took (and I took loads!) I will place lots more photos on my Facebook page on my return when I have better internet).

There was a walkway that had ceiling to floor glass and had the most fabulous view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There was then a spiral walkway that reminded me a bit of Epcot centre and at the bottom was a layout of Disney World.

Walking on through, there was a lot of interactive activities to take part in too. Learning how to operate an animatronic parrot and it isn’t as easy as it looks!

After leaving the Disney museum, I got an Uber to the Union Square in the hope of finding Lombard Street on the trolley. Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Francisco, California that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. The trolley stopped near Lombard Street, but it looked too far to walk, so I got back on a different trolley and carried on the route which ended at Fisherman’s Wharf.

One of the museums I wanted to visit was near there so I decided to go visit. This was Ripleys Museum. Lots of strange things in the museum – see photos!

Just a short walk away was San Francisco’s Madam Tussauds. As I had been to the one in Sydney, I decided I should visit this one too. It was pretty much the same as the Sydney one, only a little bit more based on America. I was happy to see that there was no President Trump there!!

I was also going to do the dungeons, but opted not to. I have done the one in London, though.

After I left Madam Tussauds, I carried on walking along the waterfront towards pier 39. Pier 39 is famous for its sea lion colony!

I then took a walk through the shops on the pier, purchased some sweets and chocolates for the crew back on board, had a 10 minute walk outside the Hard Rock Cafe while trying to decide if I could walk back or get a bike taxi. I decided that I didn’t want to let a poor cyclist take my weight so opted to take a slow walk back! I made it back to the ship, but was extremely tired, but was happy with what I had seen in San Francisco.

San Francisco was lovely and is a place where I would like to visit again. So many places I didn’t get to see and do, so I will be back!